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NAMI Applauds Confirmation of Elinore McCance-Katz as new Federal Leader on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Arlington, Va., August 7, 2017 – On August 3, 2017, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., as the first ever Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders. This new federal leadership position was created by Congress as part of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016.

Dr. McCance-Katz, a psychiatrist, has an extensive background as a treatment provider and administrator of mental health and substance use disorder services.  She served in the past as Medical Director at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and most recently has served as Chief Medical Officer for the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

“NAMI is pleased that the Senate has confirmed Dr. McCance-Katz,” stated NAMI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mary Giliberti. “Dr. McCance-Katz has both federal and local experience and a history of working closely with people with mental illness and their families in implementing policies. And, as an Assistant Secretary who reports directly to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Price, she will be well positioned to coordinate the priorities and actions of all of HHS agencies that touch the lives of people who live with mental illnesses.”

In her confirmation hearing last week, Dr. McCance-Katz spoke about the importance of finding proper balance between intervening early in treating emerging mental health conditions while also ensuring that services are available for those most at risk of experiencing hospitalizations, homelessness, incarceration and other consequences of lack of treatment.  She also discussed the importance of working creatively to address workforce shortages in mental health, through strategies such as payment reforms, utilization of allied mental health professionals, increasing tele-mental health services, and peer supports.  Dr. McCance-Katz emphasized the important role that families and caregivers play in support and recovery and the need to achieve appropriate balance in protecting privacy while ensuring that caregivers have access to the information and support they need.

“NAMI looks forward to working closely with Dr. McCance-Katz in carrying out her important responsibilities,” Giliberti stated. “We will do all we can to support her efforts by bringing the lived experience of individuals and their families to the table as she seeks to increase access to critical mental health services and supports.”

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